Charter's Mega Merger Results In Higher Prices, Slower Speeds, And Worse Customer Support Than Ever
from the meet-the-new-boss dept
When Charter pitched its $79 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, the company promised an absolute ocean of improvements for customers, including better broadband speeds, improved cable boxes and new jobs. After blocking Comcast’s own merger attempt of these companies, regulators bought into this promise, approving the merger but banning the cable company from imposing usage caps, charging Netflix steep interconnection fees, or otherwise trampling net neutrality (even if the FCC’s rules are gutted by the incoming administration).
But, even with these conditions, it’s becoming apparent to many customers that the already shaky service they had under Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks is actually getting worse. Charter apparently doesn’t believe in offering customer support via alternative methods, so it has eliminated most of the alternative customer support offered via social media and third party forums. Despite promising broadband speed upgrades, the company has also frozen the upgrades that had been taking place at the acquired companies.
This week, Charter formally applied its branding to acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House markets. To introduce itself to its new customers, Charter got right to work post merger jacking up the price of service as customers’ long-term contracts expire, with an apparent unwillingness to offer any new promotions:
(One customer) told me he?d been paying Time Warner about $140 a month for TV, phone and Internet service. But now that Spectrum had reared its head, his bill had shot up to $162. ?I guess they?re trying to get their $8 billion back as quickly as possible,? Cohen, 74, said, referring to the fat bag of cash Time Warner Cable paid to be the exclusive distributor of Dodgers games.
Charter CEO Tom Rutledge insists that these freshly-acquired customers were “mispriced” and that offering promotions is a dead end game. None of this should be surprising. In telecom, where last-mile competition is little more than a pipe dream, larger mergers and acquisitions almost always result in higher prices, worse service, and job losses. Yet for obvious reasons, state and federal regulators are consistently intent on letting these companies grow larger and more apathetic, and ignoring the negative repercussions of these decisions as if they never happened.
Here’s the real problem: despite the hype surrounding efforts like Google Fiber, the broadband market is about to get even worse for tens of millions of consumers, thanks, in part, to this consolidation.
AT&T and Verizon have given up on millions of DSL customers they don’t want to upgrade, and have shifted their focus to media and advertising. Smaller telcos like Windstream, Frontier and CenturyLink don’t want to pay to upgrade their DSL lines either, in many areas, and are shifting to enterprise services. So as cable giants consolidate, DSL competitors dwindle, and we move toward a new era of hamstringing regulators that oversee the telecom market, cable’s monopoly will grow stronger, and the incentive to provide quality service at low prices will be less than ever before.